BILLINGS — With temperatures dropping, the need for homeless Montanans to escape the elements increases and poses additional challenges for Billings shelters.
Beds in Billings’ shelters are already limited and Covid has turned a difficult situation into something even more complicated.
“It just adds yet another barrier for our youth and young adults to have to overcome,” said Georgia Cady, the executive director for Tumbleweed, a day shelter that helps homeless adolescents.
The pandemic has forced shelters like Tumbleweed and Off the Streets, where 16 of 40 rooms are now being used as quarantine spaces, to make tough decisions.
“So, people are seeking shelter even more than they would during the summer and even on a summer night our average is about 45 people per night that we bring in just for that 12-hour period overnight and we see those numbers go up during the winter,” said Kari Boiter, director of the continuum of care, a coalition of groups helping the underserved.
The homeless need to have shelter throughout the year, but it's even more crucial during the winter, when steep temperature drops can be deadly.
“Not only are we having trouble keeping places open because of the pandemic but we’re also having trouble keeping places open because of staffing. So, we have to get really creative on how we’re going to ensure our unhoused neighbors have a place to be 24 hours a day because even 30 minutes out in what is balmy 32-degree weather is not comfortable,” said Boiter.
The shelters say that besides money their main needs for the winter include winter clothing, blankets, socks, disposable emergency ponchos, and food.